Film Review: Vacation


National Lampoon fans rejoice – the Griswolds are back! This week sees the release of Vacation, a reboot of the original National Lampoon film starring Ed Helms as Rusty, the son of Chevy Chase’s iconic character.

In an attempt to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons, Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) takes his family on a cross-country excursion to America’s favourite fun park, “Walley World”. The film is the fifth installment of the National Lampoon’s Vacation film series and is loosely inspired by the original 1983 film starring Chevy Chase.

Witty, daft and very funny, Vacation will not set the world alight but it’ll certainly make you laugh. Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Horrible Bosses) do a decent job in their directorial debut and the film boasts plenty of funny, memorable moments, with the scene in the hot-springs park and the “Debbie does anything” assault course particularly springing to mind.

What works well in Vacation is that the writers Goldstein and Francis Daley make no secret that the film is a repeat of the original idea – even Chevy Chase himself makes an appearance. In fact, they make reference to this more than once as the basis for a joke, delivering a nice dose of self-parody. “I’ve never even heard of the original vacation,” says the nonplussed teenage son of Rusty Griswold. “Doesn’t matter,” replies his father, “the new vacation will stand on its own.”

Skilled comedy veterans Ed Helms and Christina Applegate play the Griswold couple. Helms (The Hangover, The Office) stars as Rusty, the son of Chevy Chase’s iconic character who shares the undefeatable optimism of his father. Christina Applegate (Hall Pass, Anchorman 2) is equally good as long-suffering wife Debbie Griswold, boasting plenty of comic scenes of her own including what is surely the funniest vomit scene of the summer.

Leslie Mann cameos as Rusty’s sister Audrey, who has grown up and married a chiseled Texan (Chris Hemsworth). While the scenes with Mann and Hemsworth are short, they are incredibly funny with Hemsworth’s performance a refreshing world away from his role as Thor. Chase and Beverly D’Angelo also show up late in the story to reprise their roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold.

But it is the young actors playing the Griswold brothers who steal the movie. Skyler Gisondo is excellent as the uber-sensitive older brother James, who keeps dream journals, plays the acoustic guitar and always seems to be on the verge of tears. Steele Stebbins is equally good as little brother Kevin, who curses like a sailor, constantly attacking his older brother, berating him verbally and physically attacking him.

Extra brownie points are awarded for film’s soundtrack which, from the opening track Holiday Road by Lindsey Buckingham’s (the famous song from the original series) to the hilarious revival of Kiss From A Rose by Seal, adds to the comedy.

Vacation’s slapstick comedy and crude gags may not appeal to everyone but fans of the original National Lampoon series are sure to love it. A solidly funny reboot of the 32-year old cult classic.

4 out of 5 stars

Vacation is released in UK cinemas on 21 August 2015.